Today’s families are generally small and planned. It is hard for many of us to imagine how our mothers and grandmother’s coped with all the children they had. Having been researching my family for nearly 30 years I seen all sizes of families, but none as large as my 4th Great Grandfather James Virtue. He had a total of 17 children who lived to adulthood. This was more than a family, it was a small nation.
James is a dead-end brick wall in our family history. We are unsure who his parents were, or where they came from. Yet his family is well documented and I am quite sure that this family of 17 really did exist, though in many ways it was unusual for the times. Members of the family on this side of the pond have been back and visited where the Virtue family of Ireland lived.
Jame’s first son was born when he was 33, which was quite late for a man born in 1772. His wife, Jane, was 12 years his junior; she was 21 when she had their first child. Jane would have 11 children in the next 24 years. Assuming that she had no other children, which is highly unlikely, she spent half her married life pregnant and all of it likely either pregnant or nursing. We are unsure exactly when Jane died or of what. Based on facts we do know Jane died in her mid 40’s or early 50’s. I would guess her body was just worn out.
James was an aging man in his late 50’s and early 60’s with young children and without a wife. The older daughters who could look after the children were marrying and starting families of their own. Though the details are not complete it appears that about the time that the 3rd daughter married, James also remarried.
Jame’s second wife, Ann, was 34 years his junior. Younger than children from his first marriage. I wonder if this was scandalous, or if this was a norm of the time. Did he take on a young woman because many women his age already had a passel of children and he felt he had as large of family as he could support? What did Ann’s family think of such an arrangement? Many modern questions run through my mind for which there are no answers.
From James marriage with Ann would six more children who would be born who live to adulthood. Keeping a schedule like in the first marriage there were six children in 11 years. The last child James would have was born in 1849 when he was 77 years old. Eight girls and nine boys. James would stay in Ireland and live in to his 90’s.
My 3rd great-grandfather was the 3rd child of James and Jane. He came to the US in about 1836, and was the first of many from James’ family to immigrate.